French PM Villepin Says U.S. Should Pull Out of Iraq

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said the United States should pull out of Iraq within one year and work with Iraq's neighbors and Europe to resolve the crisis.

Villepin, in a speech Friday at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government on Friday, said the United States' true strength "isn't its army."

The United States in the 20th century constructed an economic and cultural model "and forged an ideal of modernity that inspired the admiration of the rest of the world," he said.

"For us you represented the camp of freedom. You were the guarantors of human rights," Villepin said.

But the U.S.-led war in Iraq marked a turning point, he said.

"It shattered America's image. It undermined the image of the West as a whole. It is time for the United States and Europe to regain together the respect and admiration of other peoples," Villepin said.

Villepin said the situation in Iraq would grow "even more dangerous" unless a framework is established for ending the crisis that included "a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops."

"I believe that it should take place within a year," Villepin said. "That will allow Iraqis to feel that their future is in their hands and put them back on the path of national sovereignty." The Bush administration has opposed any timetable for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq.

Villepin said that the Iraqis themselves needed to mobilize to support national reconciliation by "offering a power-sharing agreement to all those who renounce violence."

"While you have foreign troops in Iraq, they have a reason not to do this work and America is just like a scapegoat ... America is the one that is responsible for every bad thing that is going on," he told reporters after the speech. "So the choice we have is ... leaving in an organized way."

"States in the region, from Turkey to Iran, from Syria to the Gulf States, must be mobilized in support of this process to ensure Iraq's territorial integrity," he said, expressing support for an international conference on Iraq. "The United States should of course play a central role in this. But Europe too must assume its responsibilities."

Villepin called an Iran with nuclear weapons capability "unacceptable," but said the solution is diplomacy. He praised the United Nations resolution adopted in December to set sanctions if Iran refuses to suspend uranium enrichment.

"The United States has a major role to play to end the crisis. My conviction is that when the time comes, it will take place through the engagement of a real bilateral dialogue with Tehran," he said.

Villepin pointed to American and French cooperation in helping resolve last summer's Israeli-Hezbollah war.

"It's when we act together that we are most effective. This can be seen in the case of Lebanon," he said.

Villepin also called for efforts to simultaneously resolve what he said are a growing number of crises in the Middle East. Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are actively working to do so, he said, citing Saudi Arabia's efforts to broker an agreement between Fatah and Hamas to form a unity government for the Palestinian territories.

"Five years ago, there was only one crisis, the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, but now there are four," including Iraq, Iran and between Lebanon and Syria, he said.

He said the regional peace process could be anchored by restoring stability in Lebanon, with Syria supporting a sovereign and stable Lebanon in exchange for a renewed partnership with Europe. Israel and Syria should also be encouraged to sign a formal peace treaty, he said.

He said European and U.S. aid to the Palestinians should be restored as soon as their national unity government is inaugurated. Israel and Palestinians should begin building confidence between them and the international community should set a date for the creation of a Palestinian state, he said.

"Around this date, which should be rather close, a true political dynamic would be established," Villepin said. "The international community could offer guarantees for Israel's security with an international force in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank."

He said Hamas should be encouraged to renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept peaceful coexistence with Israel.

At home, Villepin this week endorsed the presidential bid of fellow conservative but longtime rival Nicolas Sarkozy, a day after President Jacques Chirac announced he would not seek a third term. Villepin, a Chirac loyalist, was once considered a possible presidential contender.